The Mongol Kublai Khan was a Buddhist and Sinophile, moving his capital from Qara-qorum in Mongolia to Khanbalik in China (1271) and thus establishing the Yuan dynasty. His summer palace (the ‘stately pleasure dome’ of Coleridge’s Xanadu) was at nearby Sheng-tu. Kublai moved quickly to establish his dominion over the whole of China, mopping up the residual Song dynasty in the south by 1279. The accession of Kublai as Great Khan in 1260 had been contentious, leading to civil war, and the fracture of the empire’s western territories into four autonomous khanates. The Ilkhanate and Golden Horde generally remained on good terms with Kublai, but the Chagatai khanate (whose eminence grise, Kaidu, declined to attend Kublai’s coronation because ‘his horses were too thin’) was inveterately disputatious. By Mongol standards Kublai was an ineffective warlord, mounting failed expeditions to subdue Burma, Japan (twice) and Annam (three times).
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